The springs that work together to lift and lower your garage door are known as torsion springs, and because they serve such a critical purpose, their proper operation is also critical. Think of the torsion springs that your garage door relies on like larger versions of the ones you’ll find in mouse traps – meaning they generate tension and energy by twisting, and then that tension is then released when the springs are turned in the other direction. This produces torque, which in turn effectively lifts your garage door.
Types of Torsion Springs: Oil-Tempered vs. Zinc-Galvanized
Torsion springs are typically grouped into one of two categories: oil-tempered torsion springs, or zinc-galvanized torsion springs. Whether one type is superior to the other has long been a source of contention among homeowners and garage door professionals, but most tend to lean toward oil-tempered versions, and here’s why.
• They’re very tightly wound, meaning they do not require periodic adjustment.
• They’ve been around for quite some time and have historically remained the dominant preference.
• They’re exceedingly strong, highly reliable and unlikely to wear out prematurely.
Why, then, do some homeowners still opt for the zinc-galvanized version? In most cases, because they “look better.” Some prefer the shiny, silvery shimmer of zinc-galvanized springs, and they therefore rely on this type of spring as a matter of aesthetics.
When Springs Start to Wear
Torsion springs tend to wear out slowly over time, rather than breaking outright, which is unfortunate, because other components of your garage door become affected when the springs start to deteriorate. While the average garage door weighs roughly 160 lbs., some exceed 1,000 lbs., and when the springs aren’t working well, the other parts of the door are strained while trying to pick up the slack.
Failing springs also affect parts of the garage door opener motor, including the gear and the sprockets. While many big-name companies back up their motors with lifetime guarantees, these other components tend to fail when the springs do, and they will ultimately require replacement.
Assessing the Strength of Your Own Springs
So, now that you know how important functional torsion springs are, how do you know where yours register? To assess the strength of your springs, lift the garage door until it’s about a foot off the ground. Does it stay? If so, great – you don’t need to worry about replacing the springs right away. If, however, it falls quickly to the ground, your springs are on their way out, and you should consider replacing them before they wreak havoc on other parts of your garage door system. Do not, however, try and do the job yourself! Because of the tension in torsion springs, doing so is highly dangerous and should not be done by anyone other than an experienced professional.
NOTE: We’ve updated a previous version of this article that was published in May 2013.